Twitter friends? Trust but verify

Today, I had a tweet pop up in my mentions. An old childhood friend moved to New York and asked if I wanted to get a drink. Her avatar was an egg.

I’m going to need more than that to go on.

The story of yet another less-than-truthful Twitter account hit cyberspace this week, as NFL.com reported a woman posing as a “fan” named “Sidney Ackerman” used the photo of an adult entertainment star to lure players into conversations with her via Twitter. The revelation comes a week after the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax was revealed.

You think it’s tough for those Washington players who were duped by the allegedly fictitious Twitter persona of Sidney Ackerman? Lizz Robbins could relate. Both Redskins fans, she and “Ackerman” were in the same fantasy football league this year, and now one of her Twitter pals has disappeared.

“The more you interact with them, you develop friendships,” Robbins said. “You feel like you’re sharing who you are and they’re sharing who they are.”

Well, that’s currently up for debate.

Robbins had been interacting with Ackerman for years, through direct messages and emails. Robbins, a.k.a. @Lizzs_Lockeroom, said she had tried to meet up with Ackerman a few times at training camp. It would be nice to come out from behind their online personas and meet in the flesh.

“Why would anyone do something like this?” Robbins -- I’m pretty sure it was Robbins -- asked.

The real news here is people continue to fall for some pretty obvious ploys. Real people have been getting played by fake people ever since the days of black-and-white photos and the Pony Express. Snake oil salesmen no longer go door to door, but phishing and spam keep the hucksters from going out of business. It’s as true now as it was in Ancient Rome: Caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware.

So that gorgeous girl with all the right stuff on Facebook may be who she says she is and meeting someone on Twitter may have seemed a lot easier than trying out pickup lines and paying for overpriced drinks, but me thinks the golden era of social media hookups may be over.

“It’s like the dream has ended and everybody is waking up,” Robbins laughed.

The fact is, it’s easier to hold someone’s attention if they think you’re hot; that’s why the duck face exists. It is why cleavage sneaks into a profile picture, and could be why “Ackerman” chose the image of a porn star for her Twitter profile @RedRidnH00d.

According to the NFL.com story, Redskins personnel warned players to stay away from ... her? ... on all forms of social media. The image of that same adult entertainer, C.J. Miles, was used for another now-defunct account that had 22 verified NFL player followers. Ackerman had 17,000 total followers.

Being famous for doing nothing has never been so simple.

“This is the age of the reality star and Kim Kardashian,” Robbins said. “Everything is so visual and you have to look a certain way.”

Image is a big part of any introduction. Robbins uses some of her modeling shots in her avatar. Sir Mix-a-Lot himself followed her because, well, he followed her. Robbins backs up the image with some funny and incisive tweets, as well as the occasional old-school hip-hop lyric.

So, what if someone wants to be part of the conversation and have access to players, but doesn’t exactly look the part?

Robbins, who is a project manager for government contracts in the D.C. area, said she knows of two occasions where her image has been used in fake accounts. She has tried to get them flagged as inappropriate or as scams.

Meanwhile, Robbins has also been posting photos of herself with her Twitter handle holding a sign saying, “NO CATFISH.”

Really, it’s the least any of us can do these days.